Umphrey's McGee at Red Rocks 7.3.11
Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Umphrey's McGee is one of the top touring bands on the jam band/live music scene. Red Rocks Amphitheater is one of the most incredible venues in the country. The combination of the two excited many to no end. The addition of The New Mastersounds and the Easy Star Allstars simply sweetened the deal. Our afternoon began at 2:00pm in the Red Rocks lot and didn't end until UM left the stage.
The lot began filling in at the 2:00 hour. Easy-up tents were erected and shakedown began to form under the hot July sun. People began wandering up and down the rows of cars, looking for friends and selling various hippie trinkets. The folks parked next to us were selling home brewed beer out of the trunk of their car and the normal chatter of various party favor options passed in the breeze.
As the afternoon progressed, a storm with high winds and little to no rain rolled through and cooled off Red Rocks...
Inside the venue The United Kingdom natives, the New Mastersounds opened the evening of music. Their straight ahead sound forced many in the amphitheater to their feet. The music was overwhelmingly funky and the instrumentation was great. The New Mastersounds are not an opening band... However, in this situation they opened the shows and played like closers.
Eddie Roberts tore it up, barreling through scales up and down the neck of his guitar. Joe Tatton's organ work also demanded the focus of the receptive crowd as it wailed and screamed. The set was short, but the impact was deep... Folks loved The New Mastersounds and were not shy in showing it.
The Easy Star Allstars took the stage as folks continued to file into the half-filled venue. The reggae began and the people ate it up. Easy Star went through dub covers of Pink Floyd, Radiohead as well as some original tunes. The covers are enjoyable, but they have been playing the same songs for years. Additionally, their original material is extremely generic.
The production was solid and the band knew how to get the crowd excited, but ultimately it was a cheesy set of shout outs, generic tunes and unoriginal material. "Do you like reggae music!?!" the singer would yell from the stage before dancing in a goofy, running-in-place manner. A couple of times, all of the musicians moved back and forth in unison, putting the music to the side to show that they could sway.
The set ended with folks cheering for more. Easy Star announced that they were going to do one more song and the sample for Pink Floyd's "Money" began and was quickly turned off. At this point the bass player announced that they didn't have enough time for one more and continued to talk while thanking folks for the next several minutes.
Set up began on stage for the Umphrey's set. Anticipation built in the crowd as the last rushes of people filed into the now 3/5 filled venue. UM took the stage right on time and the crowd went nuts. The energy in the air was thick as the band took their respective places and began their road to destruction.
The first set started out with "Jazz Odyssey > Bridgeless > Professor Wormbog". I was impressed with the furious notation, the smoothness of the instrumentation and the seamless transitions. Beyond just the songs, the lights were captivating. "Puppet Strings" followed with an intense "Hurt Bird Bath" for the fans of the harder Umphrey's material. Jake Cinninger is one of the best shred guitarists that many jam fans have heard/seen. That night at Red Rocks, Jake dismantled his guitar with ridiculous precision.
The first set closed out with "Deeper > Plunger > No Comment > Plunger". I wasn't overly impressed with the brief set. Though it looked good on paper, the short renditions of each song allowed for limited "jamming" and focused more on song structure.
The setbreak seemed to drag on forever, with the house speakers playing some uninteresting slow jams. You could feel the energy being sucked out of Red Rocks.
The second set began with "Nipple Trix > Divisions". The instrumentation was top notch as usual but the energy was lower than I had anticipated it would be given the occasion. The second set produced longer drawn out versions of their songs, as well as an airy vibe. Red Rocks seemed to have thinned out after the extended break and I noticed several people were sleeping on the benches.
"Forks" offered some high points and was followed by "Sledgehammer" with the horn section from the Easy Star Allstars joining to pick up the funk. The song was oddly placed and came off as cheesy, though the crowd seemed to appreciate the change of pace.
Umphrey's followed with "Red Tape > Jimmy Stewart > Red Tape" but beyond being captivated by Chris Meyers' drumming, I was already lost. I have a deep affection for Umphrey's and when I'm not feeling their music, it's really hard for me. "Day Nurse" and "Hajimemashite" closed out the second set. There were several peaks that helped to elevated the closing songs. The remaining fans wanted more, and I was curious as to where they would go from that point.
Unfortunately the answer was "Release" a lower energy, sappy tune. I scratched my head and looked around in frustration. Luckily they performed a second encore, "Bridgeless", which brought some of the highest energy and most intense shredding of the evening... Leaving an open door to the possibilities of their sold out show the following night in Boulder.
In the end, there were no fireworks and overall, I have seen better shows from Umphrey's. Although, as a big fan, my expectations are high. I look forward to the next opportunity that I will get to see UM. There is no band out there that shreds like Umphrey's does and though I was not impressed by their Red Rocks show, by all accounts the Boulder show the following night was incredible!
Photo Gallery From The Show